On this last Sunday before Christmas, we see that Jesus' birth is the fulfillment of the promise of Emmanuel, "God is with us" (Matthew 1:23). The Gospel refers to the first reading from Isaiah. There we see the king of Judah, Ahaz, under attack by the kings of Aram and Israel. He wants to ask the Assyrians for help instead of relying on God. That's why he says, "I will not tempt the Lord" (Isaiah 7:12). He is afraid to admit his lack of faith. So the weakness of Ahaz gives us the wonderful prophecy of the birth of Jesus. Ahaz, of course, did not understand the full meaning of that prophecy. For him, the prophecy meant the destruction of Judah.
In the Gospel, Joseph also does not understand how Mary came to be pregnant. But unlike Ahaz, Joseph did have faith in God and the message of the angel. He took Mary as his wife and helped her through her pregnancy and in raising Jesus afterwards. His faith in God kept Jesus from being murdered by Herod after the magi's visit.
So now we have to choose whom to rely on. Do I act like Ahaz, relying on worldly powers, or like Joseph, who trusted the Lord? I would like to say that I trust in the Lord only. But if I look at my actions and priorities, I might be more like Ahaz than I want to admit.
How much time do I spend watching television (especially now that it's in HD) compared to time in prayer? How much time do I spend reading the scriptures compared to the newspaper or magazines? How much do I spend on Christmas decorations or gifts for my family, compared to what I give to the Church? If I really believe that "God is with us," which is what Christmas is all about, how much of God can people see in my actions?
Maybe if we kept in mind that promise that God is with us--in the baptism we received and the sacraments of the Church, and in the love of our spouse or parents--we could see how close God really is, and let others see in our actions that Jesus is Emmanuel.
Tom Schmidt, Copyright (c) J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.